I love religious-themed jokes. One of my favorites is about the Ten Commandments: Moses comes down from the mountain and tells the Israelites, “I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is I got him down to 10. The bad news is adultery is still one of them.” If you’ve been to Sunday School as a child, you likely learned the Ten Commandments. There are many clever ways to remember them and like naming the seven dwarfs or the eight reindeer, we race to recite them (sometimes).
The first three tell us about our relationship with God and the last six about our relationship with each other. Author Walter Brueggemann calls the fourth commandment the “bridge commandment.” This is the one that commands us to rest, to keep the Sabbath holy. I know for me, it is the most ignored commandment. Go kill someone and there are all sorts of consequences. Don’t rest one day a week? No societal consequences. In fact, we are rewarded for being available at all hours for our jobs - for making things happen, getting things done, and driving results. God delivered us from slavery but He knew that we could enslave ourselves again if we weren’t intentional about rest.
For most of my childhood, my father traveled Monday thru Friday. I didn’t realize until after several years that not everyone went to the airport to pick up their dads on Friday evening. My father sent me postcards from his travels and my mom didn’t complain that he wasn’t around. I didn’t feel like I missed out because when he was home on the weekend, there were no pagers, cell phones, or email. When he was home, he wasn’t working. We had plenty of quality time.
I have been pondering Sabbath for several years and struggling to integrate it into my life. After I left my 75 hour/week corporate job a year ago, I starting resting each week pretty regularly. But, as things have gotten busier (and more exciting), I have fallen into old habits. This past Sunday, Rev. Beth Fain taught an excellent class on Sabbath keeping. Part of this teaching was that Sabbath doesn’t always involve worship and if God could take a day off and trust that things would be okay, we can take a day off. This was new for me – that Sabbath could be about trusting God.
So this Monday, I took a Sabbath. I put on my out-of-office message and planned to be unproductive. Within a few hours, I felt anxious and stressed. I was having a hard time trusting that I could take a break from work. While I physically did very little, my mind was struggling to shut off. But, I named this day holy (set apart) and stuck with it. Here’s the awesome thing about God. Even though I felt some discomfort during my day of rest, it still changed me. As this week is shaping up, I have experienced renewed patience with others, connection to God, and a lack of worry about the work still to be done this week.
What would God show you if you took a day off and produced nothing?